Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Phoenix Marathon Race Recap


We left off yesterday with the Pre-Race Festivities (and with this being the RACE OF THE YEAR, you can imagine there were MANY!). If you missed that post, you can check it out here.

As I mentioned at the end of yesterday's post, I had set my alarm for 3am on race morning. I was riding over to the bus pick-up area with Erica and Susie and they were planning on leaving around 4:10am, so I wanted to make sure I was up and ready to go. And, NO, it does NOT take me over an hour to get ready (I am a very LOW maintenance type girl), but one can never be too careful (I mean, I know I am not the only runner who has nightmares about oversleeping and missing a race - hence my 4 alarms).

Just like every race before this one (and I'm sure, every race after this one) I "slept" poorly. I would roll over and look at the clock or my phone every 30 minutes or so. At one point I was so freaked out that my phone was still on West Coast time that I had to Google "Current time in Phoenix, AZ". As per usual, I was out of bed before the first of my multiple alarms went off. I decided to start checking my social media to try and calm my nerves a bit. Once I finished double tapping, it was time to get dressed.

Flat Carlee included my Brooks Ghosts 6Sparkle Athletic Rainbow Checkerboard skirtPro Compression Neon Orange and Neon Green Socks (#TwoPairDontCare), Garmin Forerunner 110SPIbeltSparkly Soul Silver Headband, and Clif ShotBloks.

I would have taken a pre-race picture in our mirror (it was perfect for that), but Ryan was still sleeping and I didn't want to turn on too many lights to wake him. (One of the benefits of having friends staying at the same hotel is I was able to let the hubby sleep in and head over to the finish line closer to the time I was expecting to cross so he could get more rest.)

Around 4am I ate a Power Bar, drank a little water, and made my way down to the hotel lobby. I met up with the ladies ladies and gentleman (Erica's friend Don was also riding along with us) and we made our way over to the bus pick-up.

The Phoenix Marathon is a point-to-point race (meaning it starts in a different place than it finishes). There was no parking at the starting line (since it was UP a mountain), so we were all required to park (or get dropped off) near the finish and take the provided buses to the starting lines. (There was a half marathon and 10K race also being run at the same time, so the different racers parked in different areas so they would get dropped off at the proper starting line.)


Our hotel was about 5 minutes away from the bus pick-up (SCORE), so we really lucked out and were able to get jump on a bus probably within 15 minutes of leaving the hotel. There were TONS of buses and adequate parking (at least when we got there around 4:20am or so). We jumped on a school bus and made our voyage to the starting line (which took about 30 minutes or so).

Susie and I enjoyed our bus ride to the start ;)
Photo taken from Suzlyfe

Once we got off the bus we saw all of the heaters and fire pits that they had set up for us (pretty awesome, especially for us thin blooded folks ;)). I started texting friends to make sure everyone made it up the hill. We ran into Smitha and the ladies first.

Photo taken from Smitha

Then I made my way over to Michael and Andrea (since Michael and I decided we were going to try and conquer this race together... well, maybe he decided to conquer the course and I was just along for the ride). Joe came and found us and invited us over to the fire pit he was sitting at. We ended up hanging out around the fire (although none of us had stuff to make s'mores... NEXT TIME!) until about 6am [yeah, probably about an hour or so of campfire stories, but at least we were toasty warm!].

Photo taken from Joe

Photo taken from Michael

We couldn't figure out the cut outs on the fire pit...
Were they there because someone liked hearts or so you
could put wood in through the ports?! Who knows!
Photo taken from Joe

Michael mentioned they should go try and drop their bags at the vans before the National Anthem since he assumed it would get pretty busy after that. We shimmied that way and caught up with Brian, Emz, Sara, and Christina. We grabbed a couple of group shots and then the ladies decided we wanted to try to use the potty before the race started. We figured that everyone would be making their way towards the starting line so the bathroom lines would be shorter... BOY WERE WE WRONG! The lines were crazy long, so... um... we found some bushes generators to squat behind and handled our business.

Smitha caught the ladies after our "bathroom break"
Photo taken from Smitha

PS I do NOT know why it looks like I am "backin' that thang up" for this photo!
Photo taken from Joe

There weren't any corrals, but there were some pacers so we decided to try and align ourselves with where we wanted to finish. (While we were on the bus over to the start, Erica was sitting next to one of the pacers. He told her that their game plan was to start out about 20-30 seconds FASTER than the pace for the first 3 miles {due to the downhill} and then pull back. I made sure to give everyone the heads up so that people didn't get sucked in.) Crazy enough, quite a few of us were shooting for the same range (Brian, Michael, Emz, Christina, Sara and I) so we all started near one another (and even had a pre-race hug before hitting the pavement).

The fireworks lit up the sky and then we were off!

Photo taken from @PhoenixMarathon's Twitter

Oh yeah, how could I forget... Although I had posted about my goals for this race here, I had adjusted them slightly. I don't know if you read my Walt Disney World Half Marathon Race Recap (you can here if you would like), but Michael talked me into running with him for that race and so you know it didn't take much convincing to do it again for this one too. Well, originally my Goal A was 3:4X, but it quickly became 3:3X thanks to Mr. Michael... (I guess we can consider that my A+ Goal ;))

Michael had been working with a coach who had him doing a lot of speed work - even his long runs incorporated it. The main focus for his race plan was to get FASTER throughout the race. His game plan was Miles 1-4 8:45-9:00/ mile (should feel SLOW), Miles 5-9 8:35/ mile, Miles 10-13 8:25/ mile, Miles 14-20 8:20/ mile and Miles 21-26.2 under 8:20/mile. I mean, it didn't sound too scary so why not try?! I CAN DO HARD THINGS, right?!

Okay, now that we got the logistics and the lofty goals out of the way, back to the race!

Michael wasn't running with a watch, so I would call out our pace every mile or so (unless I looked at my Garmin and saw we were crazy off pace). Everyone and their mama has told me to "race smart", "start slow", "save your energy", you name it, I've heard it. But you try keeping your pace slow when you have fresh legs and a downhill course! The first few miles felt effortless (which was probably a bad sign since we were going MUCH faster than we should have been), but I blame the downhill!

We got to mile 5 and then the UPNESS started... Ex-squeeze me?! I thought this was a DOWNHILL course! Apparently someone forgot to mention the 2 miles of UPHILL we had to conquer. Sure it was more of a gradual ascent, but with the previous 4 miles being so down it was like climbing a mountain! Don't get me wrong, I love to eat hills for breakfast, I just wasn't expecting it to go on for such a long time (maybe a half mile, maybe a mile at the most, but two miles seemed a little excessive, don't you think?!). Seeing as we were still dealing with the UP part of the course our Mile 6 was the first mile below our goal pace.

Other than Miles 6 (due to the hill) and 11 (not sure what happened there other than it wasn't as downhill as the other miles) we were slightly faster than our goal pace every mile for the first half marathon. We ended up finish the first half marathon in 1:51:35. We were still feeling strong and really charging! Sure, the wind (which seemed to be blowing into our faces no matter what way we turned) was rough, but we were still plowing forward.

Data from my Garmin Connect for the first 13 miles
PS How is it that I have had this watch for almost 3 years now and didn't know I could track all of this?!

Michael said, once we crossed the half way point, "Now, don't let anyone pass us!". And for the next I would say 4 or so miles, we didn't... We were eating people up and spitting them out! It was like we had a power boost and were just cruising. Our pace doesn't look too crazy fast at this point, but I think this was where folks started to fade so we were able to make up ground since we were "holding back" a bit in the beginning.

As we were chugging along we saw Brian around Mile 15ish. OH CRAP! He was giving it his all to PR this race so we knew we "shouldn't" see him (he was looking to go sub-3:30). We ran up on him and he said his hamstring was acting up (aggravated an injury he had during training) and had to change his game plan. I felt terrible for him - I was really pulling for him to PR in a huge way!

Around mile 17.5 a runner was pretty close to us. She told us she liked our pace and asked if she could hang with us for a while. She said our pace was consistent and she would rather not think at that point in the race. She asked what we were going for and Michael mentioned he wanted to try and get me to BQ (Boston Qualify). EEKS! Up until this point I knew we were shooting for 3:3X, but I hadn't actually even thought it would be an option to try and qualify for the Boston Marathon (yes the thought freaked me out, but what worried me even more was what happened next). She asked what my qualifying time was, to which I told her it would need to be under 3:35 and she said we were looking strong. That was when I let the truth out "Looks can be deceiving".

Don't get me wrong, I was having a blast along the course! I would purposefully make my way over to give kids (and even adults) high fives, try to thank as many police officers/ volunteers/ spectators/ race crew that I saw, give encouragement to runners whom we passed or passed us, chat with the runners around us about their clothes, the course, whatever I could to keep our minds off the severity of the task at hand, but at this point my legs were getting heavy. Due to the downhill my quads felt like rocks.

And then it happened, Michael started pulling away. We had talked about it before the race - we would each run our own race. It is GREAT having someone to run with, but I would never want to hold someone else back from "their" race - so we made sure neither of us felt pressured to stay with the other. I was bummed for me (because I really wanted my legs to keep moving as quickly as they had been the previous 18 miles), but knew I was still going to give it my all to try and finish strong.

Data from my Garmin Connect for the second 13 miles... See where my pace DROPPED?!

Thankfully around this time my AMAZING hubby was on the course. (Joe had given him the suggestion the night before to come down to the 10K start area so he could see me before the finish.) I saw him a little ways away, waved, and headed towards him. I told him my legs were done, but that I was still going to put one foot ahead of the other. He said something encouraging (I would assume, although I really don't remember) and I kept on trucking.

[PS Please forgive the photo quality of these next few pictures. I had taken the SD card out of the camera the night before to transfer some of the pictures onto the computer and didn't put it back in the camera... That means Ryan didn't have the card to take pictures so had to grab these next few on his phone. Thankfully he had time to go back to the hotel and grab the card before I made it to the finish line.]

Looks like I was riding the struggle bus, eh?

Trying to wave at the hubby!

Coming in for a high-five...
Hoping it would give me the energy I needed to finish this thing!

Around Mile 20 I caught back up with Michael. He was stretching his legs on the sidewalk and I felt a pain in my gut for him. He had been training so hard for this (to be honest, it seemed like training made him lose his love for running for a bit) that I so wanted him to do well and kick this race in its face. He said that his knee was acting up and needed to pull back. We ran together for another mile or so and then he pulled off to the side. (I don't know who it was more heart breaking for, me or him - I really was crossing my fingers he would rock this race.)

I told myself that even if I can't get a BQ (which I never even imagined would be a possibility) or even finish in the 3:40's, I still wanted to RUN! At points during those last 6 miles I felt like all I was doing was shuffling, but at least my feet were moving in the right direction - FORWARD! I knew if I was to stop and walk I probably wouldn't start up again, so I wanted to run the whole thing.

As I was approaching the Mile 25ish area I saw Gregg! He had run the Half Marathon earlier that morning (well, we all started at the same time, but since they started 13.1 miles closer to the finish line than us they also finished sooner than us). I gave him a hug (sorry if I got you all sweaty sir) and he told me that Emz and Christina were a couple minutes ahead of me. That was all I needed to hear. Well, that and the fact that there was only about a mile left!

I could see the ladies in the distance (they were TWINNING and over to the left out of the packs of runners), so I made it a goal to try and catch them. I knew I probably wouldn't, but at least I now had a "bigger" goal than just trying to make it to the finish line.

About a half mile before the finish line I saw Jeremy who grabbed a picture of me (how sweet!). He also had finished the half marathon (he was originally planning on the full but had twisted his ankle the week before while walking his pups and had to make the hard decision to put his health first and do what his body would let him).

Photo taken from @RunBlogAZ's Twitter

And FINALLY it was time to finish! I was running numbers in my head for the last couple miles and figured out (sure, I started college thinking I would be a math major, but after running 20+ miles your brain gets a little fuzzy) I could still finish in 3:4X. I saw Ryan on the home stretch and made a break for the finish line.

For some reason I HIGHLY doubt that the guy is pointing at me ;)


I wasn't able to catch Christina and Emz, but did finish shortly after them (like within 30 seconds of them, so I did make up a little ground). I looked at my watch and finally saw it - I PR'ed BY ALMOST 28 MINUTES!! Sure, sure, I didn't hit my A+ Goal (which I guess I knew would be a long shot deep down anyway), but I still shaved off over a minute per mile from my previous fastest marathon time!

Ryan was able to catch a couple pictures of Christina and Emz as they sped by him!

LOOK AT THAT! My watch has the EXACT time as my chip again!


I was looking for the llamas, but didn't see any on the course!
I think even if I would have found one, they probably weren't
running the tangents (based on the video I saw from earlier in the week),
so I probably did better without them ;)

I'm not sure if you noticed in the Elevation Gain and Elevation Loss from my Garmin Connect data above, but the downhill sort of stopped after the first half of the race. The second half was more of a slow descent (like 10 feet here, 20 feet there). With the "intense" downhill in the first half, my quads took a beating and they just couldn't keep up for the second half (if we would have had more of an elevation change the second half I'm sure it would have helped, but beggars can't be choosers ;)).

Data from my Garmin Connect for my pace and the elevation change...
As you can see it pretty much flattened out the second half.

Also the wind was fairly strong on the course. Strong and consistent. You can see from the map from my Garmin Connect that we were pretty much heading east the entire race. But even when we would turn a corner and head a different direction it felt like the wind was still in our face. Running into the wind definitely seemed like it zapped my energy.

Data from my Garmin Connect for the "map"...
If you can't tell yet, I pretty much LOVE this Garmin Connect thang!

After I finished and ran over to give the hubby a big HUG, I went back into the finishing area to meet up with Christina for a massage (we had talked about getting one when we took our finisher pictures). I didn't see her, but figured I'd still wait in line. Shortly there after I saw Joe and he jumped in line with me. We chatted about the race (I passed him around Mile 23ish - he was dealing with some dehydration issues) and took a picture. Right before it was my turn for the massage I saw Gregg again so he came over and we took one last picture together.

Photo taken from Joe

Photo taken from Gregg

The massage or maybe I should say "massage" was more of a stretch. The guy was super nice, but I would say it was TOTALLY NOT worth the wait. I would say I probably waited in line for a good 20 minutes only to lay on the table to have the masseuse pull back each of my legs once and tell me I was extremely limber... Hmmmm... Thanks.... Next time I will know to pass.

The finishing area seemed extremely crowded, but maybe I was just there during a busy time. I believe they had free food for runners, but nothing was very clearly marked or explained (just had a couple different food trucks around the area). I got a towel to wipe my sweaty (and salty) face, a bottle of water, and a small reusable bag to put the stuff in. I didn't see any bananas, protein bars, electrolytes, etc, but then again I guess I wasn't searching high and low for them either.

I was able to meet up with some of the crew and grab a couple pictures before we made our way out of the chaos. (It was starting to drizzle and we weren't sure if the rains were coming or not, but didn't want to stick around to test our luck.)

The course had quite a few aid stations, at which I took water at each of them (I pour out a bit if they are super full, then fold the cup in half so I can pour in a few sips without spilling too much or choking on the water). I took 3 Shot Bloks at Miles 7, 14 and 21 (the first two sets of three were Mountain Berry and the last set of three were Black Cherry). The cloud cover stuck around for most of the race (I think there were only about 2 miles where the sun made an appearance), so overall my temperature was good the whole time.

I'd have to say, although my last few miles were a bit of a struggle, I am surprised my splits for the two halves weren't further off. My first half marathon was 1:51:33 and the second half marathon was 1:55:18.

I do have a couple suggestions for future races (if the folks at the Phoenix Marathon care about little ol' me and what my thoughts are). First, MEDICS! I don't think I noticed a single medical tent on the course. I know some of my friends had issues on the course and having medical attention would have been great. Some water stops had folks handing out Vaseline, but I didn't notice a single medic on the course. Next, BATHROOMS! Like I mentioned, the lines at the start (at least for the full marathon) were re-donk-ulous. I think adding at least twice the amount of port-o-potties would be a good idea, especially if they are looking for the event to continue to grow in popularity. [I don't normally have to use them on the course, so really didn't even notice if there were adequate options for runners during the race.] Also, ORGANIZATION AFTER THE FINISH. It seemed like there was a lot going on in a very small space and nothing was clearly marked or explained.

Obviously walking away with a PR is great, but the weekend was MADE because of the PEOPLE! No one is going to remember your race times, life is all about those around you - how you can positively effect them and how you make them feel - THAT is how you will be remembered!

The running community is ABSOLUTELY AWESOMESAUCE (I wish I had better adjectives to describe how much they mean to me, but my limited vocabulary will have to do). I was stunned by how much love, encouragement, and admiration everyone had for one another - folks constantly checking in on others, runners celebrating finish lines together (no matter if it was a first marathon, a fiftieth marathon, a personal best or a personal worst), we were there for one another NO MATTER WHAT. This is a weekend that will be hard to top!



Anonymous said...

Love it! Super congrats on a major PR! Hope to see you at another race soon or back in town next year :D
♡, @hellyontherun

Erica @ Erica Finds said...

You are awesome! Love the mega recap.I thought the finish area was cool in that most everything was free but some signs would have been super helpful. The wind was tough. The second half was uphill. That is my story and I am sticking with it.

Thank you for the free entry and for adding me to your group. It was an amazing experience. A great fun and a super fun community to be a part of.

It takes a village and I am glad to be in yours.

PS. I can run you to that BQ! Esp. after you are 35 ;)

Unknown said...

Don't listen to Erica. The second half was mostly flat :D Congrats on your PR! Shake of the fist to the wind. I am so glad that I got to meet you this weekend--you were an awesome part of the experience for me!

Unknown said...

HUGE congratulations on your PR! You rocked that race and looked like a rockstar at the end.
It would be hard to see your friends struggling but its great you stuck to your race and went for it.

Kc said...

I'm so proud of you!! You killed it!!!! I didn't get in to NYC so time to pick a new fall marathon... :)

Meridith said...

Awesome job, Carlee! Way to go with a HUGE PR. And how much fun was it to see so many familiar faces in one place. Very cool! xo

Lisa@RunWiki said...

That is amazing! Great time! Congratulations!

Unknown said...

Congrats Carlee!!! You worked so hard through your training and it really paid off! Hopefully you can build on this and get that BQ!!!

Babydoll said...

Holy crow, Carlee?! Twenty-right minutes?? That is incredible...!!!

I loved reading your recap. You know you are a runner when you devour all the small details of someone's marathon....even the tiniest tidbit is fascinating to me and it felt like I was there. And I am thrilled that you met Susie and Smitha :) Congratulations Carlee!!

Corine said...

Despite some small snags along the way, it sounds like a great experience overall! I'm so glad Jeremy and I stuck around to take photos and cheer all the full runners on! That was the best part of the day. Such a great finishing time and you looked strong still at .2 miles from the finish! :) I really enjoyed your recap. Congrats!!